A decade too late, Remi jumps in to review the fourth movie in the franchise.
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is movie that is, but feels like it doesn’t want to be. Its stars look as bored as the cinematography is lifeless, and the direction does not belong to an action/adventure movie. Tides might not be a bad movie, but it is something even worse: an unambitious bland film.
It’s also in many ways a movie that shouldn’t have been.
During a Disney reshuffle, Tides' budget got slashed by a hundred million dollars—down to a still obscene two hundred million dollars—and marching orders were given to make the film more family friendly than its predecessors. The prompt change came shortly before filming, and the production’s subsequent aimlessness can be quantified in dollars: In the end, the movie ran twice its budget, clocking in at an unbelievable four hundred and ten million dollars. By many estimates, it’s still the most expensive movie of all times, yet it still made money. More than a billion dollars.
You know the plot of course. You’ve watched Tides at least once; twice even, because you’re a sicko. (elTee, upward of a dozen times, or so I found through anonymous sources.) Based loosely, I assume, on the book by the same name, we follow Jack Sparrow (Deppo, natch) on the hunt for the fountain of youth, sometimes alongside privateer (question mark) Barbossa (Geoff Rush, the highlight of the movie), sometimes with Blackbeard (the criminally underutilized Ian McShane), sometimes with both, sometimes with neither. There are also mermaids and an altar boy who has a side plot that’s entirely unnecessary and god, why did they bother?
Really, I don’t know what anyone was thinking clearly. I assume Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio wanted to make their own Last Crusade—the echoes are plentiful—a task they were not up to. Never has a chase with such high stakes seemed more tedious. Did the darker aspects from the previous trilogy get toned down to cause this exercise in blandness? Who knows, but the script seems like a poor facsimile of a Pirates of the Caribbean movie.
A finger could and should also be pointed to director Rob Marshall. I don’t know why anyone would think the man behind Chicago (and later the sequel to Mary Poppins, which just makes sense) was up to the task of instilling any kind of energy into an action/adventure movie. All the odd and imaginative twists Gore Verbinski would tweak out of the scripts are gone, and what we’re left with is… Well, it’s the movie I expected the original Pirates… to be. A cheap (not in the monetary sense) attempt to cash in on a Disney ride.
And what really stings, is that there is a good movie hidden somewhere deep within Tides. Between unnecessary subplots and lifeless action scenes, you get interactions between Barbossa and Gibbs (Kevin McNally) which are as fun as the previous films. These scenes are few and far between, but when they hit, they hit well. And there’s this…
Too, once in a while an action scene feels just right. Sparrow escaping captivity via palm trees? That’s fun, something there should have been more of, and something they could have used in place of the swatted down darker sides of the trilogy.
It’s sad. I liked the original movies. Even though the second and third installment had their flaws, the good parts made up for them, and then some. Had Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides been a movie that tried and failed, I could at least respect it. Instead we have a movie where Penelope Cruz looks like she wants to be elsewhere, Deppo likely gets lines read through an earpiece, and a wannabe preacher who… What? Turns into merfolk toward the end? I don’t even know.
You’ve already watched it, of course, but if you consider re-watching it, don’t. It will only tarnish your opinion of the rest of the movies.